A tough day in the life of a female entrepreneur - Business Works
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A tough day in the life of a female entrepreneur

by Darrell Sansom, Managing Director, AXA Business Insurance Only eighteen per cent of UK small businesses are run by women. In our latest study, we investigated how a new wave of female entrepreneurs is challenging this status quo, but it highlights some age-old pressures that still make self-employment harder for women, says Darrell Sansom, Managing Director, AXA Business Insurance.

Since the recession, the UK has seen a 38% increase in female self-employment1 and home is largely where this revolution is taking place. According to our study, 75% of women business owners spend three to five days of their week working from home.

Home does throw up some extra challenges for women, however, as they continue to bear the brunt of unpaid domestic labour and childcare. While 65% of men stick to a nine-to-five day in their home offices; only a third of women say they can do the same.

Scheduling the working day around the school-run is common: half of women business owners start work before 7am or after 11am. For one in ten, a typical working day can end up spreading over twelve hours as a consequence. For comparison, only two per cent of self-employed men face such an elongated day.

Fifty one per cent of businesswomen say they also have to squeeze housework into their working hours too (compared to just 23% of men). For a third, this is in response to pressure from their partners or other family members.

Women are also twice as likely to have family members present in their work area during the day. One in four said their work space is regularly invaded by well-intentioned partners trying to entice them away from work - by contrast, only eight per cent of men have the same struggle.

pressures from working at home All this amounts to a very crowded day. It is no surprise that erratic working hours are named the biggest source of stress for women business owners, followed by lack of boundaries between family and work space at home.

While putting a strain on business, this crowded day does bring some unexpected benefits, however. The women surveyed struggled less with the loneliness of working alone than men, as well as being far less likely to miss the office or having colleagues to confide in.

Indeed, 60% of women named their family as the best antidote to the loneliness of running a business. Self-employed men, meanwhile, are more likely to turn to radio, online networks, video games and their smartphone when they feel lonely.

The UK economy can benefit enormously from this acceleration in the numbers of women starting their own businesses. This is a real opportunity to grow the small business sector and encourage entrepreneurship for all.

Businesses aren't started in a vacuum though - they're started in the midst of families and societies. And our study shows that a day in the life looks a lot different - in many ways a lot tougher - for women in business than for men.

Enterprise programmes will only be able to succeed in giving women the same start as men when they start addressing their family situations too. It's time we had a proper conversation about that and let's get more research too. Funded nursery care in the first year in business, for instance, could provide that crucial breathing space a woman needs to launch out on her own.

For more information, please visit: AXA Business Insurance

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